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Sun, 22 Feb 2015

Jono Bacon: Too much hierarchy kills your company, community, family (and anything else)

"Bobbing for Influence" by former Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon, now community manager for XPrize, is an insightful look at a problem affecting many communities.

And if you don't recognize your organization, be it a family, project or company, as a community, you're doing it wrong.

Jono's articla is all about how rigid observance of hierarchy can really kill a company's culture, mission and even bottom line. The worst is when your boss/CEO/etc. thinks that acting like Steve Jobs is going to work. Steve Jobs was a genius. And an asshole. (The chances that you're a genius are slim. And the idea that genius only thrives when mashed up with asshole is stupid. Steve Jobs was an edge case who made thousands of other guys mock-turtle it up and steamroll everybody in their path. Not good.)

Be that as it may, Jono says it better:

A big chunk of the problems many organizations face is around influence. More specifically, the problems set in when employees and contributors feel that they no longer have the ability to have a level of influence or impact in an organization, and thus, their work feels more mechanical, is not appreciated, and there is little validation.

Now, influence here is subtle. It is not always about being involved in the decision-making or being in the cool meetings. Some people won’t, and frankly shouldn’t, be involved in certain decisions: when we have too many cooks in the kitchen, you get a mess. Or Arby’s. Choose your preferred mess.

The influence I am referring to here is the ability to feed into the overall culture and to help shape and craft the organization. If we want to build truly successful organizations, we need to create a culture in which the very best ideas and perspectives bubble to the surface. These ideas may come from SVPs or it may come from the dude who empties out the bins.

The point being, if we can figure out a formula in which people can feel they can feed into the culture and help shape it, you will build a stronger sense of belonging and people will stick around longer. A sense of empowerment like this keeps people around for the long haul. When people feel unengaged or pushed to the side, they will take the next shiny opportunity that bubbles up on LinkedIn.

Jono goes through 10 individual points on the problems of lack of influence in communities. I can think of few people who wouldn't benefit from reading this article. (I sure did.)

If this isn't a chapter in one of Jono's current books, it should be in his next one, for sure.